Colonial america (1492 1763) European explorers come to North America

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COLONIAL AMERICA (1492 - 1763)

European explorers come to North America

  • Spanish explorers claimed lands from Florida to California as they looked for gold. Spain set up missions to bring the Catholic religion to Native Americans, and forts to protect their claims.

  • English explorers mapped and claimed parts of the Atlantic coast from Georgia to Canada.

  • French explorers claimed areas near the Great Lakes and along the Mississippi River. They were followed by fur traders and missionaries.


  • In 1607, King James I granted the Virginia Company of London permission to establish the Jamestown colony on Chesapeake Bay (on the coast of Virginia). John Smith led the colony.

  • first permanent English settlement in the Americas

  • Hardships: low, swampy land → mosquitoes, dirty water → disease

  • Pocahontas helped through early hard times. Survived because they learned how to grow tobacco. Brought in African slaves.

  • House of Burgesses — first colonial legislature in the Americas


  • Plymouth colony, founded by the Pilgrims, was the second English colony in America, founded in Massachusetts in 1620.

  • Hardships: freezing winters, many died.

  • Squanto taught Pilgrims how to grow food to survive.

  • Mayflower Compact — an agreement for self-government



  • English kings gave permission for colonists to create 13 English colonies along the Atlantic Coast. The Appalachian Mountains were the western border.

  • Colonial cities grew up on the coast where good harbors allowed transportation. The port cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Charlestown were centers of trade, population, and government.

  • Each colony had a royal governor appointed by the king and a legislature with elected representatives from the colony.

  • Colonists in each region, or area, adapted to the climate, soil, and geography they found. They sold their products to England.

New England colonies

  • Rocky soil and cold winters. Resources: sea, forest

  • Industries: shipbuilding, forestry, fishing, trade

  • English Puritans came to New England seeking freedom from religious persecution


Middle colonies

  • rich soil, long growing seasons, cold winters, deep rivers

  • called the Breadbasket — grew grain and raised livestock. fur trapping, shipping

  • Known for diversity (many groups living together peacefully) and tolerance (acceptance of others)


Southern colonies

  • rich soil, warm weather, flat land good for growing cash crops

  • sold tobacco, indigo, rice, sugar, and cotton to England

  • labor shortage → indentured servants and slaves

  • plantation — a large farm that forced slaves to grow cash crops



History of representation in England:

  • 1215 Magna Carta — This document limited the power of the King and gave rights to some citizens.

  • 1689 English Bill of Rights — guaranteed English citizens certain rights and set up a process for electing representatives in Parliament (the British Congress).

How representation grew in the English colonies:

  • 1619 Virginia House of Burgesses — the first representative government assembly in the colonies.

  • 1620 Mayflower Compact Pilgrims signed a contract agreeing to the rules for self-government for the colony. They agreed to follow the laws made by their representatives.


Mercantilism — American colonies sent raw materials to English factories, then the colonies bought manufactured goods from England. (Colonists began to resent mercantilism controlled by England.)

Triangle trade — The slave trade route between Africa and North America completed the triangle that ships traveled.


French and Indian War

Ben Franklin published this political cartoon calling American colonists to join together to fight the French.

Cause: The French built forts in the Ohio River Valley, west of the Appalachian Mountains. English colonists wanted the land.

THE WAR: England and France fought in the American colonies (1754-1763). American colonists sided with England, while many native American tribes fought beside the French.


England won, forcing the French out of the land between the Appalachians and the Mississippi River. American settlers poured over the Appalachian Mountains, taking Indian land.

  • Proclamation of 1763 — King George III ordered colonists not to cross Appalachians to keep peace with Native Americans.

  • Quartering Act — Colonists had to feed and house the British soldiers who were sent to keep the peace.

  • The British Parliament passed new tax laws to pay for the war debt.

Colonial protests against British laws

boycott — refusing to buy certain products as a form of protest

1765 Stamp Act (tax on paper goods) → boycott of paper goods → Stamp Act Congress → repeal of Stamp Act

1767 Townshend Acts (tax on imports, new courts to try colonists who ignored taxes) → boycott → British soldiers stationed in Boston to enforce tax laws → 1770 Boston Massacre (5 colonists died) → American colonists outraged → repeal of Townshend Acts

1773 Tea Act → boycott → 1775 Boston Tea Party Intolerable Acts (took over the Massachusetts government, closed the port of Boston) → boycotts, First Continental Congress meets

Patriots v. Loyalists: Americans chose sides

Patriots — supported independence from Great Britain

Loyalists — were loyal to the King George III as the ruler of the English colonies in America.


The Declaration of Independence was signed July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia by delegates to the 2nd Continental Congress. The Declaration stated:

  • All men are created equal

  • they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

  • When a government violates those rights, the citizens have the right to abolish (get rid of) that government and create a new one.

  • King George III has violated the rights of the American colonists.

Then the Declaration listed grievances, or complaints, against King George III and Parliament (like shutting down legislatures).

Key Events of the Revolution

  • 1775 Lexington/Concord — the first battles of the Revolution. “The shot heard round the world.” Paul Revere rode to warn the colonial militia (Minutemen) about the arrival of British troops to capture their arsenal. British retreated to Boston.

  • 1776 Trenton, NJ — Gen. Washington led troops across the Delaware River to capture Trenton in a surprise attack, after Thomas Paine’s Crisis inspired troops.

  • 1777 Saratoga — American troops won in the Hudson River Valley and forced part of the British army to surrender. A turning point in the war. France began to help with troops and money.

  • 1777/78 Valley Forge — General Washington and the American army lost Philadelphia and spent a horrible winter training in their winter camp. Troops suffered from starvation, disease, and freezing cold.

  • 1781 Yorktown — Gen. Washington forced the surrender of British Gen. Cornwallis in this port town on Chesapeake Bay, with the help of French navy and army. This battle ended the Revolution.

  • American advantages in the war: Patriot troops knew the territory. The U.S. got help from Spain and France.

  • 1783 Treaty of Paris — The treaty between the U.S. and Great Britain gave the Americans the land from the Appalachian Mountains west to the Mississippi River and recognized American independence.

Key People

  • Samuel Adams — leader of the Sons of Liberty in Boston, a secret protest group that began many protests including Boston Tea Party.

  • Thomas Paine — Englishman who wrote Common Sense, a pamphlet that encouraged American colonists to declare independence from England. Later, Paine wrote Crisis, which encouraged Washington’s soldiers before the Battle at Trenton. “These are the times that try men’s souls ...”

  • Patrick Henry — Virginia Patriot who called for independence once Boston was under siege. “Give me liberty or give me death!”

  • Benjamin Franklin — colonial leader in Philadelphia, representative in France during the war, inventor, publisher.

  • Thomas Jefferson — Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress who wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

  • George Washington — leader of the Continental Army during the Revolution, President of the Constitutional Convention.

  • King George III — King of England during the American Revolution; Patriots accused him of being a tyrant.

  • John Adams — Massachusetts Patriot who helped write the Declaration of Independence.

  • Abigail Adams — wife of John Adams wrote a letter encouraging him to “remember the ladies” when forming the new government.


Articles of Confederation

The 2nd Continental Congress wrote the first plan of government for the colonies after it declared independence from Britain at the beginning of the Revolution. They called it the Articles of Confederation.

The Articles set up a loose alliance of the states to defend themselves against Britain. The states governed themselves, printed their own money, had their own navies, but they agreed to help protect each other.

Weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation —

  • Congress was too weak: could not tax, enforce laws, regulate trade, or control money. Congress ould not pay soldiers, and it was hard to pass bills because 9 of 13 states had to agree.

  • No president (chief executive) or Supreme Court.

Results of the weak new government

1783 Congress was chased out of Philadelphia by Continental Army soldiers who were never paid.

1786 Shays’ Rebellion — former Continental Army soldier Daniel Shays led Massachusetts farmers in armed protest after they lost their farms because of high state taxes. The weak U.S. government could not help end the conflict.



Delegates went to Philadelphia to revise (change) the Articles of Confederation. Instead, they decided to write a new plan for a stronger national government.

James Madison introduced the Virginia Plan — he proposed three branches of government and two houses of Congress. After five months, delegates completed the Constitution. The Constitution was ratified, or approved, in 1789, after the Bill of Rights was added.

COMPROMISES at the Constitution Convention

1) The Great Compromise ended an argument between large states (Virginia) and small states (New Jersey) by creating a House of Representatives with representation based on population and a Senate with equal representation (2 senators from each state).

2) The Three-Fifths Compromise settled the argument between Northern free states and Southern slave states about how to count slaves when figuring out how many representatives each state got.

Preamble - Introduction

We the People of the United States ...”

The purposes of our national government: to keep the nation together (form a more perfect Union); make things fair (establish Justice), keep peace at home (insure domestic Tranquility), defend the country (provide for the common defense), take care of citizens (promote the general Welfare), and keep the country free (secure the Blessings of Liberty)




The Framers of the Constitution wanted our government to be strong enough to hold the states together, but they wanted our Constitution to limit the power of the government.

a government of laws and not of men” - John Adams


Government power is divided between the federal (national) and state governments. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. The federal government only handles jobs that affect the whole nation (like income tax, treaties, and national laws).

Separation of Powers

The powers of government are separated into three branches of government:

  • Legislative Branch lawmakers. Congress makes the laws for the nation.

  • Executive Branch — enforcers of the law. The President heads the Executive Branch.

  • Judicial Branch judges (who interpret the laws). The highest court is the Supreme Court.

Checks and Balances

Each branch can check, or limit, the power of the other two branches, so that no one branch becomes too powerful (for example, the President can veto laws, the Supreme Court can rule a law unconstitutional).


reps of the public” — Government is controlled by the people, who give their elected representatives the power to make and enforce the laws.

Popular Sovereignty

the people rule”

The power of government rests with the people, who express their ideas through voting (consent of the governed)

Individual Rights

The unalienable rights mentioned in the Declaration and guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and other amendments to the Constitution

Federalists v.


  • Federalists (Alexander Hamilton, James Madison) argued in the Federalist Papers that we needed a strong central government.

  • Antifederalists (Patrick Henry) argued that a strong national government would take away people’s and states’ rights. They insisted that a Bill of Rights be added to the Constitution to protect individual rights.

Bill of Rights — 1791

Bill of Rights the first ten amendments to the Constitution

1 freedom of speech, press, religion, peaceable assembly, petition

2 right to bear arms (militia)

3 no quartering of soldiers in peace time

4 no unreasonable search or seizure, warrant

5-8 due process for people accused of a crime (jury trial, attorney, no cruel and unusual punishment)

9-10 rights not listed in the Constitution belong to states or citizens.

Amending the Constitution

amend — change

The Constitution can be amended (changed) to keep up with changes in society. Amendments can be proposed by Congress or state legislatures. Amendments must be approved by ¾ of state conventions. The Constitution has only been amended 27 times.


Northwest Ordinance of 1787

This law established a procedure for adding new territories and states to the United States. New states were equal to the original states. The law also provided free education and banned slavery in the new territories.

George Washington’s Presidency

I walk on untrodden ground” — Washington knew he would be setting a precedent (example) for presidents to follow.

Washington asked for advice from his “Cabinet,” including Alexander Hamilton, his Secretary of the Treasury, and Thomas Jefferson, his Secretary of State.

Farewell Address: Washington encouraged the U.S. to stay neutral and to form “no entangling alliance” with other countries. He also warned against political parties, which could divide the nation.



Washington’s cabinet members disagreed about how much power the national government should have. They led different political parties.

Alexander Hamilton and other Federalists believed in a strong national government (supported a national bank, import tariffs to protect new American factories). Represented Northerners, urban manufacturers.

Thomas Jefferson and other Democratic-Republicans supported small government, the rights of the states, and low taxes. Represented the agricultural, rural South.

Washington, D.C. — 1800

George Washington asked Benjamin Banneker, an African-American mathematician and surveyor, to help design the new capital.

Marbury v. Madison — 1803

This court case established the idea of judicial review. The Supreme Court can overturn a law as unconstitutional if the court decides that the law is against the U.S. Constitution.

War of 1812


President Madison

Causes: the U.S. wanted to annex Canada from the British and Florida from the Spanish. British warships were seizing American ships and impressing American sailors. U.S. was angry with Britain for encouraging Native American attacks against American settlers on the frontier.

British ships blockaded American ports, blocking American imports. This encouraged American manufacturing. British troops fought in America from 1812 -1814. The British burned much of Washington, D.C.

Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star Spangled Banner” after witnessing the American victory that defended Fort McHenry from British attack in Baltimore Harbor.

Andrew Jackson won at the Battle of New Orleans after the peace treaty was signed.

Result: the Era of Good Feelings, a time when Americans felt greater nationalism and patriotism and political parties stopped fighting.


Improvements in Manufacturing

In England, improvements in technology created the Industrial Revolution, a change in the way goods were made. Now work was done more efficiently in factories, rather than in homes by hand.

textile industry — the mass production of woven cloth by machines

1790 Samuel Slater built the first spinning mill in America.

1798 interchangeable partsEli Whitney invented machines to manufacture each part of a gun exactly alike. This sped up production and made repairs easier. assembly line → mass production of goods

1813 Lowell mills hired farm girls to weave cloth on power looms in factories (12 ½ hour days, low wages).


  • urbanization (people leaving their farms and moving to cities)

  • 5 million immigrants from Europe (Irish, German, Italian)

  • overcrowding, poverty, poor working conditions in Northern cities

Improvements in Agriculture

1793 Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin. Textile mills demanded more cotton, but the short-fibered cotton that could be grown away from the coast was hard for slaves to clean by hand. With the cotton gin, a worker could clean 50 pounds of cotton a day.


  • Cotton profits made slaves more valuable → increased slave trade.

  • Many farmers moved west to grow cotton and brought slaves.

  • Settlers moving west grew food and cotton to supply the North and created a market for Northern manufactured goods.

1834 McCormick reaper allowed farmers to cut grain crops with a horse-drawn machine rather than by hand.

1837 John Deere’s steel plow made it possible to farm the tough, muddy midwestern soil.

Improvements in Transportation

1807 Fulton invented the steamboat (the Clermont), increased river transportation, made transporting goods more efficient.

New Orleans became an important port on the Mississippi.

1825 The new Erie Canal let steamboats travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. Made shipping between East coast and Midwest much faster and cheaper.

The expanding network of railroads connected the regions, as people and goods were transported faster than ever before.

Improvements in Communication

1837 Samuel Morse patented the telegraph, an innovation that sped up communication between east and west.


Wilderness Road

The first trans-Appalachian road sped up transportation west.

Result: thousands of settlers moved into Kentucky and Tennessee.

1803 Louisiana Purchase

Thomas Jefferson bought the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803. The purchase of this huge territory doubled the size of the U.S. and began America’s westward expansion beyond the Mississippi River.

1804-1806 Lewis and Clark Expedition

Lewis and Clark explored the Louisiana Purchase for Jefferson, mapped territory, gathered information, and established contact with Native American tribes. Sacajawea guided the expedition.

1819 Spain cedes Florida

After Andrew Jackson captured Pensacola, Florida, Spain gave up Florida to the United States in the Adams-Onís Treaty.

1823 Monroe Doctrine

Latin American countries won independence from Spain in the 1820’s. President Monroe said that the U.S. would not allow European countries to make any new colonies in North or South America.

Andrew Jackson’s Presidency

The first Western president, founder of the Democratic party. Jacksonian democracy — involving “common people” in government.

Nullification Crisis — Congress passed high tariffs (import taxes) to protect new Northern factories by making foreign goods more expensive. The South protested the 1828 “Tariff of Abominations,” because it made their imported goods more expensive. Vice President John C. Calhoun argued that his state of South Carolina had the right to nullify (declare illegal) the tariff law. Jackson sent federal troops to enforce the federal law.

Destroyed the national bank, removed funds → Panic of 1837

Indian Removal Act of 1830 — Jackson asked Congress to authorize the use of force to remove southeastern tribes from prized farmland.

1838 Trail of Tears — Jackson ignored the Supreme Court and ordered troops to remove Cherokee and other Native Americans from “settled” areas east of the Mississippi River to “Indian Territory” west of the Mississippi River. Many died during the forced march west.

Manifest Destiny

The belief that the United States had the God-given right to own and control all land between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. This belief drove westward expansion, the annexation of Texas and Oregon, and the Mexican War. John Gast’s American Progress. Public domain image

Many Americans moved west:

Oregon Trail — farmers traveled in Conestoga wagons for farm land.

Mormon Trail — Mormons headed to Salt Lake City for religious reasons.

Santa Fe Trail — major transportation and trade route to the Southwest

Rocky Mountains were a major barrier to settlers traveling west.

Mexican War (1846-1848), Mexican Cession

The Republic of Texas was annexed into the United States as a slave state in 1845. The U.S. and Mexico argued about which river formed Texas’ southern border.

Result: War between Mexico and the U.S.

Henry David Thoreau wrote “Civil Disobedience” to protest the use of taxes to support the war.

Results: Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo — U.S. victory and the addition of the Mexican Cession (land from Texas to California) in 1848.

1846 Oregon Territory

Great Britain and the U.S. both claimed “Oregon Country.” For years, the northern border of the U.S. was not set, west of the Rockies. Many American farmers moved to Oregon Territory. Some in Congress wanted to fight for the territory. The two countries signed a treaty in 1846.

1849 California Gold Rush

In 1848, gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill, California → population boom in California. CA gained statehood in 1850 as a free state.

1853 Gadsden Purchase

U.S. bought the last piece of southern border to provide land for railroad.


Temperance — a movement to ban the sale of alcohol and encourage people not to drink → 18th Amendment (prohibition)

Education Reform Horace Mann fought for high-quality public schools for all children. “Education ... is the great equalizer of the conditions of men ...”

Women’s Rights Movement — Women who were banned from speaking at abolition meetings started the movement for women’s rights — suffrage (the right to vote), the right to control property.

1848 Seneca Falls ConventionElizabeth Cady Stanton presented the Declaration of Sentiments. Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott


Frederick Douglass wrote the North Star.

William Lloyd Garrison published The Liberator.

Sojourner Truth spoke against slavery and for the rights of black women.

Harriet Tubman secreted fugitive slaves to the North and Canada on the Underground Railroad.

CIVIL WAR (1861 - 1865)


1861 - 1865 — The North (Union, Yankees) and the South (Confederacy, Rebels) fought the Civil War over the issues of slavery, states’ rights, and economic and sectional difference between the North and the South.

The North and South had been different since colonial times ...



textile mills, factories

manufactured cloth, other goods


European immigrants

tariffs helped factory owners by making their goods competitive

the Union, abolition


plantations, few factories

exported cash crops


1/3 slaves

tariffs hurt southern farmers by raising prices for imported goods

states’ rights, slavery

Voices of each region

Sectional leaders were loyal to the interests of their region:

  • John C. Calhoun — South Carolina senator who promoted states’ rights, “nullification,” and secession.

  • Henry Clay (Kentucky) was called the Great Compromiser. He tried to “keep peace” between Northern and Southern interests.

  • Daniel Webster (Massachusetts) represented the views of many Northerners in support of strong central government.


  • 1820 Missouri Compromise — As new western states applied for statehood, the split between North and South widened. Henry Clay of Kentucky negotiated a compromise in Congress. When the Missouri Territory wanted to join the Union as a slave state, Maine was admitted as a free state. This kept the number of free and slave states equal.

  • The Compromise of 1850 included the Fugitive Slave Law, which enraged Northerners who didn’t want to help slave owners.

  • 1852 Uncle Tom’s CabinHarriett Beecher Stowe published this book about the horrors of slavery. Northerners were moved by the touching story of slaves suffering. Southerners were outraged.

  • 1854 Bloody Kansas — Senator Douglass proposed opening Kansas and Nebraska territories to slavery. Thousands of northern and southern settlers poured into the territories to fight for their side.

  • 1858 Dred Scott v. Sandford A slave named Dred Scott sued his owner for his freedom in the Supreme Court. Justice Taney wrote the opinion that slaves were not citizens and did not have the right to sue in court. He stated that slaves were property, not citizens. Northerners feared this could extend slavery into territories.

  • 1858 Harper’s Ferry — Abolitionist John Brown led an armed slave revolt at Harper’s Ferry, VA. Brown was hanged. He became a hero among Northern abolitionists.

  • Formation of the Republican Party — The Northern Abolitionists formed a political party to end slavery: the Republican Party. Abraham Lincoln of Illinois was their candidate.

A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.”

  • 1860 Presidential Election — Lincoln won the presidency, because the Southern Democrats split their votes among three candidates. The South panicked, believing Lincoln would abolish slavery. South Carolina seceded from (left) the Union. More Southern states followed. They formed the Confederate States of America. Soon, the Union and the Confederacy were at war.

States’ Rights

The idea that states had the right to control all the issues in their state except for those listed in the Constitution. Southern states used the argument to nullify (ignore) laws they didn’t agree with.


  • April 12, 1861 — Fort Sumter, SC. The Civil War began when Southern troops fired on Union troops who were trying to re-supply a U.S. fort.

  • Vicksburg, MS — a Northern victory that took control of the Mississippi River from the Confederacy. A turning point in the war.

  • Gettysburg, PA — a Northern victory in which over 35,000 Confederate and Union soldiers were killed or wounded in three days of fighting. A turning point in the war. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

  • 1863 Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared all slaves in the rebellious Confederate states free.

  • Appomattox Courthouse, VA — Gen. Lee surrendered to Gen. Grant to end the Civil War. Grant showed mercy to Lee and his troops.

  • 1865 Lincoln was assassinated while he attended a play in Washington, D.C.

Civil War Leaders

  • Abraham Lincoln — president of the U.S. during the Civil War. Believed in preserving the Union above all else.

  • Ulysses S. Grant — commander of the Union Army

  • Robert E. Lee — commander of the Confederate Army. Surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse.

  • Jefferson Davis — President of the Confederate States of America


a time of rebuilding after the Civil War. Federal troops went to the South to ensure that Southerners followed the new laws against slavery.

  • 13th Amendment made slavery illegal in the U.S.

  • 14th Amendment gave citizenship rights to all people born or naturalized in the U.S., including former slaves. Stated that citizens cannot be “deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of the law.” All citizens will have equal protection under the law.

  • 15th Amendment gave African-American men the right to vote.

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